No one ever really wants to have to pay a visit to the hospital, especially here in China. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. Luckily, Shanghai is home to many high-quality international hospitals that families can choose from. These international hospitals tend to be higher in cost, but offer services and quality of care that are comparable to Western hospitals.
How are international hospitals different from local hospitals in China?
According to Dr Yonglie Lee, Chair of Family Medicine at Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics, the biggest differences between local hospitals, VIP clinics and international hospitals are access to care, customer service and cost. “International hospitals are structured to have a system that most expatriates are accustomed to, and provide a level of service that is comparable to hospitals in the West,” he says.
Some of the benefits of going to an international hospital include the convenience of being able to make an appointment, request a specific doctor and use your international health insurance. Language also is not an issue as there are doctors from many different countries work- ing at international hospitals. These hospitals normally offer translation services as well.
“The quality of the medical services offered at international hospitals is also very high,” says Dr Lee. Doctors that are chosen to work at these hospitals are stringently vetted as the hospitals want to make sure all their credentials, background and experience are up to the standards that they require.
What kind of medical services are provided?
International hospitals are varied in the types of medical services they can offer. In Shanghai, international hospitals can provide many services. Some international facilities provide trauma care, more acute level inpatient services and cardiac care. Large public care hospitals offer a broad range of these services. VIP clinics connected to these hospitals are able to transfer care internally.
International hospitals in China, however, normally partner with larger local hospitals, such as Huashan Hospital, Ruijin Hospital and Zhongshan Hospital, where they can direct patients who need specialized help – this is called a green channel. This means that if a patient at an international hospital needs specialized care, he or she is sent to get treated at a local hospital through this green channel. They can bypass tedious processes and be lead through the system directly to the right person/team that can help them.
Cost of international hospitals in Shanghai
Local public hospitals are by far the cheapest out of the three options, where seeing a doctor can cost as little as ¥30. However, the doctors will probably not be able to speak English, and you won’t be able to make an appointment or use your international health insurance.
VIP clinics, which are normally connected to public hospitals, tend to be anywhere from eight to 10 times more expensive, but normally have English-speaking doctors, accept appointments, are generally cleaner, and now most even accept international health insurance.
International hospitals are normally 30 to 50 percent higher than services at VIP clinics. The prices may be steep but with direct billing with many different international insurance companies and a variety of packages for payment plans (i.e. maternity and orthodontics), making payments doesn’t have to be an issue.
Do international hospitals have their own ambulances?
Hospitals, local or international, do not own or operate their own ambulances; the government owns and operates all of them. “Unlike ambulances in most western countries, ambulances in China are gen- erally a mode of transportation,” says Dr Lee. “It is also very unlikely that the ambulance operators will speak English.”
The ambulance will also take you to the nearest public hospital unless specified. So if you wish to go to another hospital, Dr Lee suggests hav- ing the name and address of your preferred hospital in China on hand. And if you have any medical problems or are on any medications, you should have these written down on a card in Chinese, as well. Am- bulances require payment upon service, so it’s always useful to have some spare cash stashed away in case an emergency arises. Dr. Lee suggests always having ¥10,000 in an emergency fund at home as the ambulance ride alone can be several thousand renminbi.
In China, the central number you can call for an ambulance is 120. Each district in Shanghai has at least one ambulance depot, but can have more depending on the size of the district.
VIP Clinics at Local Chinese Hospitals in Shanghai
While many expatriates prefer to seek treatment at Western managed clinics, there are designated VIP clinics at some leading public hospitals. These tertiary-graded institutions are usually affiliated with leading Chinese medical schools and offer considerable financial savings compared with international services.
What services are available at VIP clinics?
According to Dr Samson Cho, chief surgeon at St Michael Hospital, “VIP clinics within local hospitals have access to modern medical equipment and specialist expertise associated with a large hospital, without the long lines and impersonal nature of local services. The standard of care itself is generally competent at Chinese hospitals. The quality of care in VIP clinics usually mirrors the main hospital, given the medical personnel and equipment are the same.”
Louise Roy, from Shanghai Doula, says patients should expect significant cultural differences in all aspects of service at local hospitals, even in VIP sections. “Given the vast cultural differences in medical care, take a Chinese speaker with you to ensure mutual understand- ing, especially for complex issues. Some physicians and nurses may speak English, but this is not guaranteed. Be mindful that staffing practices and policies may not be what you’re used to.”
The Shanghai International Medical Center (SIMC) and the New Hong- qiao International Medical Center each include several specialized hospitals and provide health services to the premium market. (Full contact information is provided in the listings beginning on page 37 of this section)
Located in the international medical zone of Pudong New Area, SIMC began its trial operation in March 2014, in cooperation with eight of Shanghai’s leading hospitals: Ruijin Hospital, Xinhua Hospital, Renji Hospital, Shanghai No.1 People’s Hospital, Shanghai No.9 People’s Hospital, Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, Shanghai Chest Hospital, and Changzheng Hospital.